(Yeah, I'm months behind the curve on this one. Sue me.)
For a discussion of what this is, and what its implications are, I offer you a blog entry on Corrugated Media. (So far, pretty much the only blog entry on Corrugated Media, but there you go.)
From that blog:
I managed to track down the creator of this custom track, Andy Sage,who gets lots of points from me not only for his selection in music,but for how he went about this process. He secured permission fromCoulton before posting the track, despite the source materials beingfreely available in a remix contest, and all of Coulton’s music beingunder a license he was not breaking. Sage was under no legal obligationto contact Coulton and make sure he was cool with this, but he did soanyway, and that is the kind of attitude that makes this sort oflicense and culture really work. Tying this back to why I think thisstory is so cool is the fact that he was ABLE to contact Jonathan to doso. Try doing that with Bono.
Okay, and that's the thing right now. The internet is not just going to change the nature of entertainment. It's already changed it. Broadcast media will probably never go away--god knows some nights I don't want the emotional commitment of anything more interactive than a cooking show. But the internets are interactive and remixive and discursive, and moreover, you can walk right up to me and talk to me on them. (And there are any number of other entertainers who have similar web presences, with greater or lesser degrees of transparency. If I really needed to, for any reason, I know where to find musicians, television producers, actors, writers, game designers, programmers, essayists, artists, graphic designers, architects--and talk to them in person.
The reason that works, of course, is because the celebrities (loosely so termed) that one knows on the internet are suddenly real people. They're not constructs anymore. Jonathan Coulton isn't a construct to me, the way Bono (to use the example quoted above) is. Jonathan Coulton is some guy on the internets, whose work I really like. Tom Smith (filkertom) used to be a construct to me: I only knew his work through recordings, and I was a big fan. And yanno, then I met him online and at Penguicon, and now he's just some super-talented guy I know, who is also funny. Wil Wheaton is the classic example of this: I keep forgetting he's also a talented actor, because I think of him as one of the best bloggers on my daily information rounds.
And you know what? I like that. I don't want to be a construct. I want to be some guy you know on the internets who tells stories. Who possibly you pay to tell you stories, much the same way I have friends I pay for web hosting or web design or massages. Because it's their professional skill.
One of the weird things about being an entertainer is that people who you don't know know you. And one of the cool things about the internet is that it's bringing back the village. We used to know our baker, our barber, our blacksmith. Now, we can know our writers, our musicians, our crazy-ass remix artists.
But fame, the kind of fame that separates famous people from the hoi polloi, as it were, is a funny thing. Not only does it turn the famous person into a construct, it turns them into a slate that the fan can project all sorts of things into. How often have you gotten disappointed at a celebrity because her political views weren't what you thought they should be? I know I have. And damn, you know. Why do I think I get to do that? I don't pay Claudia Black to have her politics match mine. I pay her to kick ass in tight pants. Let's be honest here.
But that's the thing: that's this weird psychological trick of displacement and transference, where you take somebody you don't know and you attach all this emotion to them. And it's harder to do that with somebody who's just this guy you know on the internets than somebody who is a princess in a tower.
Does it have a potential to be scary? Sure. Absolutely. But on another level, I think we may be looking at the end of reputation by fame, and the birth of a different kind of reputation. Because while there are people who want that mystique, that megastar distance, that princess in a tower thing... there's also a lot of people who want to be able to drop Jonathan Coulton an email and say, "Hey, can I remix "Code Monkey?"
And eventually, we may be looking at a system where the President is some guy I know, who I pay to run the country.